Here's a great story about sales legend Alfred Fuller. It's from a "Living & Learning" column written by Larry A. Crider who writes a weekly "think piece" for local newspapers and public radio stations.
One of the most interesting stories in the history of American business is the story of Alfred Carl Fuller. Fuller, who grew up on a farm, headed for Boston in 1903 to make his way in the world. With only $75 in his pocket, the unemployed 18-year-old moved in with his sister and her husband hoping to start a new life for himself that wouldn’t include farming.
The first job that Fuller found was as a trolley conductor. It was a good job, but not one Fuller kept very long. One day Fuller’s boss was displeased with him and fired him. Why? The young man, so it seems, decided to take a trolley for a joy ride. That wasn’t something that was approved of by the trolley company.
After that he tried a number of other jobs including gardening (which seemed a bit too much like farming to suit him!) and grooming horses. Then his brother-in-law hired him to deliver packages for his business, but that job wasn’t the one for Fuller either. He brother-in-law eventually fired him, too, because he kept delivering the packages to the wrong addresses.
Then, just before he turned 20, he visited with a former business partner of his late brother. Fuller’s brother and his partner had sold brushes door to door and Fuller thought he could take over that work. That’s when he discovered his calling.
As Alfred Carl Fuller went from door to door he discovered that many of his potential customers wanted custom-made brushes rather than the ones he was trying to sell. In 1906 he built a workshop in his sister’s basement to make the kinds of brushes that his customers wanted. He earned enough from this endeavor to move out of his sister’s house and into his own place in Hartford, Connecticut. That is where he opened the Capital Brush Company which he later renamed the Fuller Brush Company.
Alfred Carl Fuller had found the thing he enjoyed and that he could make money doing. Before long his salesmen – for now he had a whole team of them – were all over the United States. They were doing such a tremendous sales job that in 1922 the “Saturday Evening Post” labeled them “Fuller Brush men.”
What Alfred Carl Fuller had been doing all those early years was trying to find where he fit in and what he really liked to do. For many great businessmen and leaders in other fields as well, that is a trial and error process. Failing is not the end; instead with each failure these people learn something about themselves. Sometimes they simply learn what they are not suited for. This process goes on until they do find the thing they were meant to do. The key, however, is that they never let failure defeat them and they never give up on themselves.
Such lessons are invaluable for all of us. We all need to learn what we are good at and what we are not good at. We all need to learn what we enjoy doing and what “drives us to distraction.” It is all a process of maturing and gaining self-knowledge. As with Fuller, though, the key is never giving up on ourselves.
Think about it.
© 2005 Larry A. Crider Enterprises, 2809 Mohawk, Longview, Texas 75605
Larry is a retired United Methodist minister who writes a "think" piece for weekly newspapers called "Living and Learning" and a weekly feature program carried by some public radio stations called "Curious History". In addition he writes about living the spiritual life and the spiritual disciplines for
Christian publications and an online ezine called "Believer's Bay". He's a former broadcaster/television writer/newsman/radio & television personality. Larry can be reached at via email at: